Auction 63 - Rare and Important Items

Appeal Letter, Signed by Rabbi Chaim Palachi and the Torah Scholars of İzmir – Following the Large Fire which Struck the City in 1841 – Fire which Consumed Fifty-Four of R. Chaim Palachi's Manuscript Compositions

Opening: $5,000
Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000
Sold for: $6,250
Including buyer's premium
Handwritten leaf, appeal letter for assistance issued by the Torah scholars of the İzmir community in Turkey in the wake of a large fire which struck the city, addressed to the community of Ancona, Italy, and signed by R. Yehoshua Avraham Yehuda, R. Yehoshua Avraham Krispin and R. Chaim Palachi, with the stamp of the Chacham Bashi Refael Pinchas Yehoshua de Segura. İzmir, Tevet [1841].
Letter appealing for help, written following a large fire which erupted in İzmir on the eve of Av 11, 1841. This fire was recorded for posterity as having consumed dozens of R. Chaim Palachi's manuscript compositions.
The letter begins with a description of the difficult state of the city in the wake of the "great sorrow which befell our camp with the fire which G-d set alight…". They describe mostly the destruction of the synagogues, which they maintain were the most magnificent in all of Turkey, and the snatched prayers which were presently being organized in various provisional sites throughout the city, resulting in stumbling blocks such as carrying from one domain to another on Shabbat and other Shabbat desecrations, consequence of the prayers being held in distant locations. They relate that the Torah scrolls, instead of resting honorably in the synagogues, had been dispersed in thirty locations throughout the city so that they can be read in public, which was a disgrace to the Torah scrolls. They therefore request financial support in rebuilding the synagogues, listing the synagogues destroyed by the blaze, including seven major synagogues and two smaller ones. The names of the synagogues appear in the margin of the letter: Algazi, Talmud Torah - two communities, Orchim, Etz Chaim - two communities, Portugal, Geveret and Bikur Cholim.
The letter states that an estimated 50000 coins are required per synagogue, even if they are not reconstructed according to their prior glory and magnificence. They write that the wealthy members of the İzmir community are unable to help with rebuilding the synagogues, since they too were affected by the fire.
At the end of the first paragraph, the signatures of R. Yehoshua Avraham Yehuda and R. Yehoshua Avraham Krispin appear. It is followed by another paragraph, in which Chacham Bashi Pinchas de Segura and R. Chaim Palachi endorse the appeal, blessing the donors with multiple repayment of their kindness from G-d in gold and silver. At the end of this passage, the signature of R. Chaim Palachi appears, alongside the stamp of "…Pinchas Moreinu, Chacham Bashi of İzmir and its surroundings…" – the stamp of R. Refael Pinchas de Segura – known by the acronym Pardes.
The letter was folded and sent by mail, and the verso bears the address inscribed in Hebrew and Italian: "To the honorable treasurers and leaders of the Ancona community…", with post marks.
The first signatory: R. Yehoshua Avraham Yehuda (1772-1849), author of Avodat Masa (Salonika 1846), "Rabbi and yeshiva dean of İzmir". A Torah scholar of İzmir, he was responsible for the community taxes, and consequently composed a Halachic work pertaining to the tax regulations in İzmir. In his preface to his book Avoda Masa, he relates that the fire which struck İzmir consumed all his works apart from this composition, which was with him at the time of the fire, while he was staying in a nearby village. He later immigrated to Eretz Israel, lived for three years in Jerusalem and passed away there in 1849
The second signatory: R. Yehoshua Avraham Krispin (before 1785-1855), author of Vayeshev Avraham and Avraham BaMachaze. In his eulogy (Chelkam BaChaim, Homily 7 for eulogy), R. Chaim Palachi describes him as a close neighbor for twenty years, who prayed and studied together with him every evening. He relates that there were never any hard feelings between them, and they were always united in friendship.
The third signatory (stamped): the Chacham Bashi, R. Yehoshua Refael Pinchas (Moreinu) de Segura, author of Ot Hi LeOlam, Ot HaBrit and Ot LiYeshua. R. Chaim Palachi was his disciple-colleague, and they studied together in the "Beit Yaakov Rabi" yeshiva under the Chikrei Lev (grandfather of R. Chaim). After the passing of the R. Yehoshua Refael Pinchas, R. Chaim Palachi served in his place as rabbi of İzmir. In the eulogy he delivered in his memory, R. Chaim related that in his youth like in his older age, he studied under him day and night. He recounts in one of his books seeing R. Yehoshua Refael Pinchas, whom he accompanied constantly, crying and bemoaning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple morning and night, adding that he witnessed first-hand that the latter benefited from Divine Inspiration (Luach Erez, Seder Eliyahu Raba, chapter 4, p. 7b).
His book Ot LiYeshua contains the sermon delivered on the occasion of the inauguration of the Bikur Cholim synagogue in İzmir, which was rebuilt following this fire, in Elul 1843 (pp. 156b-164a). He describes the joy and consolation they drew from the speedy reestablishment of the synagogues in all their glory, while in a previous fire in 1772, which also destroyed all the synagogues, it took many years before the community succeeded in restoring what was lost.
The fourth signatory: R. Chaim Palachi – Chavif (1787-1868), an outstanding Torah scholar in hidden and revealed realms of the Torah, was the rabbi of İzmir and a renowned leading Torah scholar of his generation. He composed seventy-two books (corresponding with the numerical value of his name Chaim, including the letters), on Halacha, Aggada and ethics. He was the close disciple of his mother's father, the renowned Torah scholar R. Refael Yosef Hazan, author of Chikrei Lev. In his books, R. Chaim quotes his grandfather extensively,
as well as his father R. Yaakov Palachi. At the age of 25, in a ceremony attended by the entire community, R. Chaim was accorded rabbinical ordination by his grandfather, who bedecked him with a special rabbinic robe he personally purchased in honor of his earning the title of "Chacham HaShalem".
Over the years, he rose in the ranks of rabbinic hierarchy, reaching the position of "Rav HaKollel", head of the İzmir Beit Din, and was recognized by the Turkish government as Chacham Bashi. His exceptional wisdom and eminence in Torah earnt him the status of rabbi of the city. The Jewish community in İzmir was comprised in those days of various congregations, each with different customs and their own rabbi, and only R. Chaim bore the absolute authority of his rulings and opinions being accepted by the various congregations in the city. His Halachic authority exceeded the boundaries of the city, and he earnt world-wide recognition as a posek, responding to thousands of queries addressed to him from throughout the world, even beyond the Ottoman Empire, such as Poland, Germany and North-Africa.
R. Chaim was a most prolific author, covering all subjects of the Torah. When the fire broke out in 1841, he had already produced dozens of manuscript compositions, which he toiled on from a young age. The fire consumed 54 of his compositions. One of his disciples, R. Yitzchak Yeshurun, jumped into the fire and succeeded in salvaging 14 compositions, including Chaim LaRosh on the Passover Haggadah, and this was the first book R. Chaim published following the fire. In his preface to this book, he describes at length the compositions he lost in the fire of Av 11, 1841, comprehensive works he expended great effort on, spanning all fields of Torah, including all four parts of Shulchan Aruch, responsa, commentary to several tractates of the Talmud, novellae on Halacha and Aggada, sermons, commentary to the Bible, ethics works, Talmudic and Halachic principles, on Midrashim, Kabbalah and more, altogether 54 compositions.
R. Chaim also expresses in that preface the mourning and great sorrow the loss of his compositions caused him (further descriptions about the fire and the books he lost appear also in other books he authored and published subsequently).
Despite the great tragedy of the loss of most of his writings, he regained his strength and began composing new works, while also recovering from memory some of the compositions he lost. In the books he printed after the fire, he would add at the foot of the title page the serial number of the book. The names of his books usually allude to his name Chaim in various ways (Nefesh Chaim, Chaim Techila, Torah VeChaim, Chaim LaRosh, Chaim VeShalom, Kaf HaChaim, Re'eh Chaim, HaKatuv LeChaim, Yimatzeh Chaim, Birkat Moadecha LeChaim, Tzavaa MeChaim, Artzot HaChaim, Tzedaka LeChaim, and others).
This letter is a historic documentation of the great fire which struck İzmir in 1841, signed amongst others by R. Chaim Palachi, who lost 54 of his compositions to it.
35 cm. Good-fair condition. Stains. Folding marks. Large open tear to the bottom of the leaf, not affecting text, repaired with paper.
Oriental Rabbis – Manuscripts, Letters and Signatures